Damselfly (Zygoptera) 


 Adult Damselflies:

These predatory insects are not nearly as agile or strong as their suborder counterparts, the dragonflies, but they do have swift methods of capturing prey.  Although dragonflies and damselflies often live in the same littoral areas, they do not compete for food because of their size difference.  Damselfly adults will focus on organisms that recently emerge from an aquatic life stage because the organisms are more vulnerable at this stage.  Diptera is a common food choice for damselflies because diptera are small enough for the damselflies to handle.  However, size is not the only deterrent for damselflies; if the potential prey has a stinger or sends chemical repellants, then the damselfly is unlikely to pursue the chase.

A popular hunting method for damselflies requires low amounts of energy because the damselfly slowly patrols its habitat, waiting for suitable prey resting on littoral plants or flying calmly.  To capture small, flying insects, the damselfly sweeps its forelegs through the air, and the small insects are caught in the spine-like setae.  The prey is swept into the damselfly’s mouth where digestion begins.  

Damselflies do not have a temperature preference, so they will hunt on cool and warm to hot days, but the sun must be out so they can gather energy and bask in the light.  Damselflies continue their hunt this way for several weeks before they return to their home habitat to reproduce.

Naiad Damselflies:

Like the adults, damselflies in the naiad stage are predators.  Naiads prefer to hunt small aquatic insects because they are unable to physically handle larger prey like dragonfly larva can.  Most of the insects naiads feed on are either cladocerans or similar in size, but if the organism has a thick shell, then the naiad is unlikely to eat it.  Occasionally, a naiad is large enough to hunt and overcome small fish, but this is highly unlikely.  One semi-disturbing nutrient source may be naiads of the same species!  To catch their prey, the naiad shoots its labium from underneath its head.  Once they capture an organism, the naiad munches away happily.   

Sound appetizing?  Keep reading to find out how damselflies grow from tiny eggs to flying adults!